Federal Centralization: A Study and Criticism of the Expanding Scope of Congressional Legislation

By Walter Thompson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE COMMERCE CLAUSE AND THE STATE POLICE POWER

IT is in the light of the conclusions of the previous chapter that the status of the commerce clause during the early period of our constitutional history must be considered. By the terms of the Constitution, Congress is given power "To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, . . ."1 It is also given power "To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper" for carrying this power into execution.2 By exercising this power Congress has legislated on such subjects as liquor, lotteries, labor, vice, food and drugs, etc. Much of this legislation is of the nature of police regulations, and in attempting to regulate these subjects the federal government has entered a field which constitutionally belongs to the states in the exercise of their police power. Was it the intention of the framers of the Constitution that the federal government should be vested with power to make such regulations?

On the eve of an industrial revolution in America the framers of the Constitution could not foresee the vast changes that were to take place and the increasing governmental activity which those changes would necessitate. A bill of rights was not considered necessary because the federal government had not been vested with powers in the exercise of which it might encroach upon individual rights. The amount of subsequent litigation resulting

____________________
1
Const., Art. I, Sec. 8:3.
2
Const., Art. I, sec. 8:18.

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